Monday 7 February 2011

Core Values

The Prime Minister has been asking everyone to sign up to the Core Values of our Nation. Great. And where do these core values come from? Just look at some of them; respect for other people, tolerance of other faiths, a willingness to put others before oneself? Oh, surely they are just our national characteristics, learned on the playing fields of Eton?

A headmaster of Eton was once asked by a parent, cross that so much time seemed to be spent on religious education, "What do you think you are preparing our sons for, Headmaster?" "Death, madam", came the reply.

Eton College Chapel

And where did that Headmaster get his values? His concern to prepare his pupils not just for earning a living, but for eternity? From his Christian faith - which is to say, from the teaching of Jesus. We give way to others, reckoning them better than ourselves, because Jesus taught his disciples that when they were invited to a meal they should take the lowest place. He spoke of the value of those of other faiths when he taught the parable of the Good Samaritan, or when he said of a foreign woman "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel".

You cannot have the core without the fruit; you cannot have the fruit without the tree. In England, even our atheists are Christian atheists; that is, they share common values which ultimately come from two millennia of Christian teaching. Those who have come from other cultures, and other faiths, should find a welcome here. But to expect them to share all our values without understanding where those values come from is asking a great deal; and to ask them to share the roots of our culture is to invite them to discover the Christian Faith. That is what we have done in Britain without embarrassment until fairly recently. We have spoken up for Christianity, believing it is the goal to which all religions must tend. We have been evangelists. Now, in a misguided 'multiculturalism', pretending every religion and none is equal to every other, we have tried to ignore, even cut ourselves off from, our roots. What the Holy Father asked us to do on his visit to this country was to make our voice heard in the market-place of public debate. If David Cameron is, however timidly, encouraging this to happen, then it is for the Churches to grasp our opportunity.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree

I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree

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